CALPIRG Releases HSR Study

Jun 30th, 2010 | Posted by

In the long fight to support and approve high speed rail, one of our strongest allies has been the California Public Interest Research Group – or CALPIRG for short. In 2008 they did some amazing organizing on college campuses, helping spread the word and get out the vote for Prop 1A, and mounted a statewide tour along the HSR route to publicize and build support for the project.

In addition to that consciousness-raising work, CALPIRG also does what its name suggests – produce research in the public interest. In that vein, Erin Steva, CALPIRG’s Transportation Advocate, and her colleagues have produced an excellent, in-depth report on high speed rail titled Next Stop: California. Benefits of High-Speed Rail Around the World and What’s in Store for California.

(Note: As you can read on the acknowledgements page, I reviewed an early draft of the report and provided some feedback and suggestions. The report is CALPIRG’s, and they deserve credit for having produce what I think is a great report that lays out very clearly the case for HSR.)

The purpose of the report is to show Californians, especially policymakers, the benefits of HSR and how it works around the world. This is essential because too many people in Sacramento, Washington DC, and elsewhere believe that HSR is just like Caltrain, BART, Metrolink, VTA light rail, or a streetcar. It’s not. It needs to be assessed in comparison to other HSR systems, and as the CALPIRG report makes clear, the comparison shows numerous ways that California will enjoy the same successes seen around the globe.

The Executive Summary highlights the following conclusions:

High-speed rail systems in other nations have dramatically reduced air travel and significantly reduced intercity car travel….

High-speed rail saves energy and protects the environment. In California,high-speed rail could cut our dependence on oil while helping to reduce air pollution and curb global warming….

High-speed rail is safe and reliable. In California, reliable service via high-speed rail could be an attractive alternative to oft-delayed intercity flights and travel on congested freeways….

High-speed rail can create jobs and boost local economies. California’s high-speed rail system could help position the state for economic success in the 21st century while creating short-term jobs in construction….

High-speed rail lines generally cover their operating costs with fare revenues…

Properly planned high-speed rail can encourage sustainable land use and development patterns.

All of these points are backed up by considerable evidence, fully footnoted, and with stats delivered in a very easy to read chart form.

The report also offers several recommendations for how to build California high speed rail:

To obtain the economic and transportation benefits experienced by other nations, California should follow through on its decision to invest in high-speed rail, while taking actions to maximize the benefits of that investment. Specifically, California should:

Follow through on its commitment to build the California high-speed rail system, creating thousands of jobs and positioning the state to meet the economic, transportation, energy and environmental challenges of the next century.

• Use high-speed rail to focus future development by locating stations in city centers, planning for intensive commercial and residential development near stations, and requiring communities receiving high-speed rail stations to adopt land-use and development plans that discourage sprawl.

• Make high-speed rail stations accessible to people using a variety of transportation modes, including automobiles, public transit, bicycling and walking. California should follow the lead of other nations and pair high-speed rail with expansion of local transit networks.

• Integrate high-speed rail with improvements to commuter and freight rail, and provide convenient rail connections to airports, ensuring that the investment California makes in high-speed rail delivers benefits to a wide variety of commuters, travelers and businesses.

• Keep clear lines of accountability by maintaining the independence of the High-Speed Rail Authority, while ensuring strict budget discipline and spending transparency through strong oversight and public disclosure of the authority’s expenses.

• Improve lines of communication between the High-Speed Rail Authority and local governments and communities.

• Make high-speed rail green by investing in energy-efficient equipment, powering the system with renewable energy, and designing and building the system in such a way as to maximize environmental benefits.

These conclusions and recommendations are all quite sensible, and deserve a wide public hearing. Read the full report for yourself, and let’s hope that California’s political leaders continue to see the benefits of high speed rail.

  1. Spokker
    Jun 30th, 2010 at 13:16

    It’s not convincing at all. The problem is that they cite successful high speed rail lines elsewhere, the implication being that it’ll be successful here. But the general consensus is that most of the United States, and especially California, are very different from the Northeast and the rest of the world. Love of cars and density are common claims.

    The idea is to explain what it is about California that will make high speed rail successful. Robert did a good job comparing Spain to California a while ago. CALPIRG could make the case that Los Angeles and San Francisco are more dense than people think, that California isn’t entirely suburban sprawl.

    It still doesn’t make sense to compare California to Korea or Japan, though.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    I think you’re judging the report negatively because it didn’t focus on what you thought it should examine. The report could have delved into that, but its purpose was to instead show what happens around the world and give a fuller picture of how HSR operates in practice. A follow-up report on how it applies to CA and how CA compares does strike me as a very good move, especially as it would blow up the incorrect notion that CA has no density, is all sprawl. But that doesn’t invalidate or render unconvincing the report they did put together.

    Spokker Reply:

    They keep saying it’s green. They keep saying it’ll attract riders. But it’s time to counter recent and common arguments against the project. Supporters of the project on the Internet who have jobs/school and other obligations can’t do it alone.

    How about these?

    -No public transportation at your destination so you have to rent a car anyway.

    -Emissions from construction outweigh the CO2 reductions.

    -Does not reduce traffic congestion. This one is true, but they should stress why. It doesn’t work if you just keep implying that people’s freeway delay is be reduced. It never, ever will. People see light rail built and erroneously believe that less cars will be using the freeway. No, car volume will increase, just not at the rate it would have.

    I’m having a difficult time countering claims from the Libertarian types, especially.

    Dennis Lytton Reply:

    “-Emissions from construction outweigh the CO2 reductions.”

    Really? Over what period of time?

    “-Does not reduce traffic congestion.”

    We are all these days, in advocacy and research, carefull not to make that claim. Look at NYC, Paris, and London. Terrible traffic congestion, but at least there’s a robust option to take transit.

    “I’m having a difficult time countering claims from the Libertarian types, especially”

    That is a waste of time. The true liberatian is just plain against the public purpose as a matter of principal.

    political_incorrectness Reply:

    What about CO2 emissions from construction 3000 miles of limited access roadways? 60 airport gates and 5 runways?

    Bianca Reply:

    No public transportation at your destination so you have to rent a car anyway.

    This very much depends on the destination. Certainly not true for San Francisco; becoming less true for Los Angeles. Besides, the “no public transit” argument applies today, and is unlikely to change without creating an impetus for more transit, so this argument has always struck me as incredibly weak.

    -Emissions from construction outweigh the CO2 reductions.

    I think this is an over-simplification of the argument that HSR construction + the energy used to power it would outweigh CO2 reductions. That argument, however, assumed that California is sourcing more of its power from coal than it actually is. If you are referring to something different, please link to whatever it is you are referring to.

    Does not reduce traffic congestion. This is sort of a red herring. Traffic congestion comes with population growth and economic activity. The population growth facing California is tremendous, and either we build HSR to deal with some of it, or we build more freeways just to maintain the status quo of already congested roads. The alternative HSR provides is capacity that is cheaper to build than adding new freeways.

    Spokker Reply:

    Guys, I know *we* can counter this stuff, but the public doesn’t listen to Internet people. O’Toole and his ilk get into newspapers across the country, for example.

    Peter Reply:

    Well, then why don’t we invent some random foundation to counter their crap. Maybe we could even get Alstom, Siemens, Bombardier, etc, to finance it.

    If you have a “foundation” behind you, people who don’t know any better, i.e. the ones O’Toole etc are playing to, take you more seriously.

    Peter Reply:

    We could call it California High Speed Rail Foundation, to counter Tolmach’s CalRail Foundation.

    Spokker Reply:

    Then we could do our Due Diligence for the Public Purpose.

    Brandon from San Diego Reply:

    This is a good idea, but hasn’t it already been done?

    Nathanael Reply:

    This is not an entirely dumb idea. Wanna call the big money guys and see who’ll donate to form a “think tank”?

    HSRforCali Reply:

    I’ll help! This would be a great idea!!! The good thing is that we’d be indepentdent from the CAHSR Authority, which means people would probably listen to us more openly.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It is entirely dumb, if you want to see results and not just more spending. New York already has a fair number of pro-transit thinktank people, but they’re all Reason-grade hacks, who just argue on the other side. The RPA, for example, has a handful of people who know what they’re doing, such as Michael Frumin and Yonah Freemark, but a lot more who are completely clueless, such as Robert Yaro.

    Matthew Reply:

    What is this CA4HSR thing anyway? Doesn’t this already exist?

    YesonHSR Reply:

    They always seem to get stories out on a regular these think tanks pay for these articles to be printed??

    wu ming Reply:

    these aren’t new arguments, the libertarians have been saying this stuff for years, regardless of how many facts and studies one holds up to refute them. and they will continue to do so as long as the oil corporations pay their producers of talking points to do so.

    the good news is that most californians aren’t libertarians.

    Nathanael Reply:

    “-No public transportation at your destination so you have to rent a car anyway.”

    Dead false in San Francisco, LA (which I visit yearly without renting a car), and San Jose. Dunno about Bakersfield. Also totally irrelevant: it’s much more fun and relaxing to rent a car in Bakersfield for local travel than to drive from San Francisco by car.

    “-Emissions from construction outweigh the CO2 reductions.”
    Over how many years? And more importantantly, compared to *what*? Emissions from road construction and maintenance are never figured into these bogus numbers. If you include them, then CO2 emissions for high speed rail are better than airport or freeway construction.

    It *is true* that if the alternative is to let freeways and airports decay on their own, and tear them down once they get rough to drive on, then yeah, that lowers CO2 emissions more than building any form of transportation. Nobody has seriously proposed that alternative.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Also totally irrelevant: it’s much more fun and relaxing to rent a car in Bakersfield for local travel than to drive from San Francisco by car.

    And I’m sure if they don’t already have these wondrous things called taxicabs in Bakersfield, Fresno and other places in the Central Valley some entrepreneur will start a company providing it. People going to the Central Valley on business or to visit friends and relatives can probably make good use of such a service. The ones visiting could, I know this is a radical concept, have the friends or relatives pick them up at the station too.

    Matthew Reply:

    Supershuttle, Zip car or a competitor (could have a statewide program, like DB car sharing in Germany:, I expect that every city where there is a planned station has at least *some* kind of bus system which will serve the rail station. Many cities that aren’t particularly known for being transit friendly have concept stations with bus connections already planned, e.g. Murrieta/Temecula. How do the millions of people who fly between Northern and Southern California get to their destinations? I’ve never heard of a plane dropping people off door to door.

    Matthew Reply:

    BTW, the translation of the DB car sharing slogan is “the intelligent way to use a car”

    Wad Reply:

    Bakersfield is just plain city buses, yet it’s better than what you’d expect. It’s better than most of the suburban service that connects with BART! It’s an extensive grid and most service runs every 30 minutes or better.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Spokker, are you arguing with Mixner/GaryG/whatever name he’s using right now? If so, you should know he’s full of shit and just trolls for studies. For example, the bit about construction emissions doesn’t say what O’Toole thinks it does. It says that if CAHSR flops, then it won’t save much CO2, and if it succeeds, then it will.

    (It gets worse… the same guy who wrote the construction emissions study wrote another one, for local transit. It concluded that BART is about 6 times greener than the car in operation and 3 times in construction. Mixner twisted that to “construction doubles transit emissions everywhere, including places where the trains run on coal-fired electricity.” Trying to argue with or quote those people is like trying to argue with the Thank You for Smoking guy about lung cancer. Just stop.)

    Dennis Lytton Reply:

    “But the general consensus is that most of the United States, and especially California, are very different from the Northeast and the rest of the world. Love of cars and density are common claims.”

    Always there’s this almost mystical cultural argument that somehow not taking trains is in our heredity or something. A quite unconvincing argument. Transportation use is driven by the personal economics of it. It you built it, they will come. All the HSR countries today have their own unique charactoristics (Japan, for one, as virtually no rail freight).

  2. Spokker
    Jun 30th, 2010 at 13:20

    “Continual improvement – Japan’s Shinkansen system is estimated to use one quarter the energy of air travel or one sixth the energy of automobile travel per passenger.”

    Like this example. it’s probably so energy inefficient because the trains are so packed. Some runs are standing room only. The California system can be successful, but it definitely won’t be as energy efficient as Japan’s system on a per passenger basis.

    Dennis Lytton Reply:

    Again, this notion that trains won’t be as efficiencient here not because of the physics of it because of some vague notion that Americans have a hereditary disposition to driving. If you built it they will come. Give people a choice in this country like they have in Western Europe and Japan.

    wu ming Reply:

    high speed rail trains are packed pretty much everywhere they exist, that’s not unique to japan. they’re packed because they’re pleasant, fast, and fairly affordable. your assumption that californians somehow won’t ride these things is not backed up by anything other than laughably false conventional wisdom. trains are way more energy-efficient than cars or planes, period. electrified trains are even more efficient.

    stop wasting your time with anti-rail libertarians, it’s getting to you.

    Clem Reply:

    They’re packed because they are yield-managed to a target load factor. Just like any airline does it.

    Caelestor Reply:

    All this green talk is nice, but it’s probable that the average American doesn’t care.

    What they want is comfort and high speeds. HSR can do that.

    HSRforCali Reply:

    What we need to do is promote the benefits this project would provide for THEM. People love hearing how a project of this magnitude would help them as an individual.

    wu ming Reply:

    the average american really does not matter here. what matters is the sentiment of a simple majority of californians. and given that our state is at severe risks from the consequences of an oil-dependent infrastructure, the environmental impacts (lower snowpack, drought, flooding, huge storms, beach erosion, increased soil evaporation rates, heat waves, wildfires, rising sea levels threatening delta levees (ie. socal’s potable water supply), coastal communities and nearly every airport in the state, etc.), and the health costs of current highway and airport pollution on adjacent communities (especially bad in the san joaquin valley), “green talk” is unsurprisingly quite resonant for many, many californians.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Price/comfort/hassle level/green…thats about it HSR can really help with the low hassle and comfort plus any franchies operator will have a low fare option period..I took the Eurostar for a really low fare jusr by chosing an off hour train

    Alon Levy Reply:

    You’re wrong. The Shinkansen has all-reserved seating, except on a handful of commuter runs.

    If you think the Shinkansen is a bad example, then consider the TGV. When I booked a ticket, SNCF let me know that the train’s per-passenger-km emissions are one seventh those of the average French car. The numbers work out to about 25 grams of CO2 per passenger-km, which is emissions-equivalent to a little more than 200 passenger-mpg.

    Dan S. Reply:

    I have taken the Tokyo – Osaka Nozomi quite a few times, and each time they announce that cars 1 – 3 are for people without seat reservations. I know that certain tickets, e.g., let you jump on a later train if you miss your scheduled departure, and I think they even issue non-reserved tickets in some instances.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I believe they still require every passenger to have a seat, except on a few Kodama runs. Trains do get sold out; it’s not like the ICE.

    Spokker Reply:

    I have heard of people standing on some bullet train runs, but I don’t know how widespread the practice is.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I believe it’s just on a few early-morning and late-night Kodama runs.

    Peter Reply:

    I’ve been on standing-room only ICEs. And I’m not talking about when the volcano was disrupting air travel.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    There’s a difference between a seat reservation and having an all reserved train.

    Matthew Reply:

    In Germany you just buy a ticket for your destination. You can take any combination of trains within the service class you pay for (prices are roughly by speed of the train and then 1st/2nd class compartments). You have the option of paying a couple Euro for a seat reservation, which is potentially useful during peak usage, especially if you want a guaranteed seat next to your travel companion.

  3. political_incorrectness
    Jul 1st, 2010 at 00:49
    #3 As per usual, someone thinks that an Acela style system will work

    YesonHSR Reply:

    This article is just what we are talking about with this “think tank” type articles…This guy has had this story running in a number of on line papers this week all posted on different days. This is not his first anti HSR story either..and he was against prop1A …He is NOT a transportation expert but a reporter

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Acela doesn’t originate in Baltimore MD and terminate in New Brunswick NJ.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    This is another version of the same Thomas Elias article I debunked earlier this week.

  4. morris brown
    Jul 1st, 2010 at 09:56

    Berekely Institute releases their study of the ridership forecasts!

    I just can’t wait for Robert to spin this and re-write what they have to say:

    The much awaited report on the ridership forecast for HSR has now been released.

    the full report at:

    From the full report:

    Unfortunately, the methodology employed by CS for adjusting the model parameters has
    been shown to be incorrect for the type of model they employed. The parameters are
    therefore invalid and the forecasts based on them, in particular of high speed rail mode
    shares, are unreliable. (It should be noted that at the time CS performed the study the
    incorrectness of their adjustment method was not known.)

    So here is an agency proposing to built a project that will cost by their own estimates $45 billions (it would cost much more), and the fundamental model used for the project is not valid.

    When is this all going to end?


    Summery at:

    It reads:

    The California High-Speed Rail Authority’s forecasts of demand and ridership for a new San Francisco-to-Los Angeles high-speed train are not reliable because they are based on an inconsistent model, according to a new study by researchers at the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

    The rail authority used the model to forecast ridership under a variety of scenarios, including different configurations of routing, pricing, frequency of service and travel time.

    We found that the model that the rail authority relied upon to create average ridership projections was flawed at key decision-making junctures, ” said the project’s principal investigator Samer Madanat, director of ITS Berkeley and UC Berkeley professor of civil and environmental engineering. “This means that the forecast of ridership is unlikely to be very close to the ridership that would actually materialize if the system were built. As such, it is not possible to predict whether the proposed high-speed rail system will experience healthy profits or severe revenue shortfalls.”

    The study is the first academic review of the rail authority’s ridership forecasts, which was included in California’s successful application for federal stimulus dollars. In January 2010, the Obama administration awarded the state $2.25 billion in stimulus funds for trains that are expected to reach 220 miles per hour between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

    The review was commissioned by the California State Senate Transportation and Housing Committee, chaired by Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), and was funded by the rail authority. The researchers presented their findings to the rail authority and the California State Senate yesterday (Wednesday, June 30).

    Other co-authors of the report are Mark Hansen, UC Berkeley professor of civil and environmental engineering, and David Brownstone, chair of the Economics Department at UC Irvine.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    At first glance this doesn’t indicate that the HSR ridership won’t be as high as predicted – instead the indication is that the modeling doesn’t give us any ability to predict one way or the other.

    My guess is that, as I’ve always expected, new ridership studies will be ordered. And they will show even better numbers than the 2005 numbers that were produced for the current ridership study.

    Finally, let’s remember that Samer Madanat isn’t an unbiased voice on this.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    The full report must be read to get a true understanding. Cambridge Systematics takes issue with the report’s characterization of their modeling. The CHSRA also rightly concludes that the statements in the report that “it is not possible to predict whether the proposed high-speed rail system will experience healthy profits or severe revenue shortfalls” is not supported by anything in the report.

    Based on my initial glance at the report, it seems to be rooted in a bias towards driving – a belief that Californians will not readily abandon their cars for high speed trains.

    More to come later today.

    Elizabeth Reply:

    The point is you might as well have thrown darts at the wall. Right now, everyone has false sense of confidence.

    Our analysis of inputs and specific coefficients suggest strongly that the current expectations way too high.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    That’s simply untrue, Elizabeth. They did NOT just throw darts at the wall. They had a ridership model that even the ITS report acknowledged was generally sound, with some exceptions. The full report shows a back and forth debate that is typical of academic researchers where there is a fundamental and legitimate difference of opinion about what are the proper models.

    But you’re quite simply wrong to imply CS just made stuff up at random. That’s not what happened and is not what ITS is alleging. You are better than to make such a misleading statement.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    The job of subconsultants is to deliver the answer that the client (meaning the prime consultant, who of course controls the project and controls its nominal public “client”) wants.

    Consider two scenarios:

    1. $60 billion of public-private wealth transfer is at stake.
    You deliver the correct answer.
    Result: Bingo! Also, you’ll be at the top of our rolodex from here on in. Thanks for doing your part and being a team player.

    2. You deliver the wrong answer.
    Result: You’ll never work in this town again.

    The general principle of lying/whoring for profit and/or job security works in other fields: see also “Iraqi weapons of mass destruction”. Or for that matter see, in general, “capitalism”.

    Dennis Lytton Reply:

    We have a robust system of judicial and legislative oversight (probably the best in the world) to prevent, for the most part, the kind of “gangster” capitalism you describe.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Dennis, you seem like an honest guy. So I’ll give you the bridge I’m looking to sell for half price. Is it a deal?

    Dennis Lytton Reply:

    Oh do tell me about your “analysis of inputs and specific coefficients” and how it illuminates “current expectations”. Did you just drop some graduate level statistics jargon on us and expect that we would be so wowed by it?

    Please do hit reply and paste your analysis of “inputs and specific coefficients” below. Or are “inputs and specific coefficients” just bywords for ignorance from some folks?

    Peter Reply:

    Ummm, I think she actually has studied mathematics.

    Dennis Lytton Reply:

    Well then I should expect to be blow away when she hits reply and CTRL-V and drops stats and analysis in there. I’m waiting.

    Peter Reply:

    She actually has discussed all these things at other times already.

    Dennis Lytton Reply:

    Elizabeth said: “Our analysis of inputs and specific coefficients suggest strongly that the current expectations way too high.”

    No, she has never discussed that. Such a document would be many pages and would involve graduate level math statistics and a sophisticated math modeling system for ridership. Even an executive summary sans the math with conclusions would be at least a couple of pages.

    She claims to have conducted a scientific study. Was she just joking to make a point?

    Spokker Reply:

    This is her site:

    HSRComingSoon Reply:

    Seems like a new, broader and more detailed ridership study is called for. This time around, it would wise of whoever is doing a ridership study to broaden their sampling data to include people who would reside in regions around potential station sites in addition to those who are asked at airports for their opinion. This would mean traveling within parts of the Bay Area and to areas like Anaheim, the San Fernando Valley, Fresno, Bakersfield, Modesto, etc. to conduct polling for data. While we’re at it, researchers should also get data from university students, tourists and business travelers who are not CA residents and see if they would be users of HSR in CA.

    Eric M Reply:

    And this new report coming from the Berkeley Institute of Transportation is funded from big oil. In fact, BP is/was a HUGE donator. Typical Berkeley report from people who camp out in trees to protest something.

    All the naysayers just need to look around the world at TRUE HSR and will see ALL meet or beet their expectations. Hell, even look at the Acela which is not true HSR by world standards, is profitable.

    I also sure like how someone like Morris Brown turns a blind eye to the present day studies about freeways not covering their costs, which I am sure he undoubtably uses and has used his whole life. HYPOCRITE

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    Check your facts, Eric. The CHSRA funded the report. Did you even read it? This fact comes out in the first paragraph of the intro.

    Peter Reply:

    Found after less than two minutes of searching.

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    Did you also see this?

    The point being that ITS is big. Many researchers, many projects, many funding sources. This particular report was funded by the CHSRA. Your list of sponsors is irrelevant.

    Spokker Reply:

    Yup, this wasn’t big oil.

    Peter Reply:

    No, it’s completely relevant. My point is that if the Authority was forced to use and pay ITS to review the study, there was no way that the ITS researchers would come out with a favorable report. They had no incentive to produce a neutral report, as their further funding from their corporate sponsors is guaranteed only if they came up with a report favorable to them, while at the same time the Authority ended up simply enabling them to continue to produce that crap.

    They did not have to worry about losing future business in terms of having the Authority pay for new studies. Instead, they could continue cranking out exactly the same drivel they have in the past. They have already shown they are dead set against the current HSR plans. There was no reason to expect that they would come out with anything other than what they came out with.

    Spokker Reply:

    Of course, anti-rail folks will spin it, but what did Berkeley say that was really that bad? They said the model is outdated, basically. They said that Cambridge is a good company and that the model is should be done again.

    However, I wish freeway projects had been this scrutinized in the past.

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    Agreed. People on either side will spin based on their biases.

    There’s a series of events which are developing into a pattern that some rail enthusiasts choose not to acknowledge: the LAO reports, the auditor’s report, and now the ridership peer review.

    What’s next? A Finance Plan peer review, as was suggested by the Legislature?

    How many reports does it take before HSR fans can acknowledge that things aren’t going so well with this project, under this leadership? The ostrich effect is detrimental to the goals of HSR proponents.

    Spokker Reply:

    Sounds to me like the project isn’t going to happen.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    What happens when the re-do the studies and come up with the same answers?

    Spokker Reply:

    Then the project goes forward?

    I doubt it will come up with the same answers though. I think it will point to Altamont as the proper alignment, but I doubt it would say that we shouldn’t go to the Central Valley. We go through the Tahachapis based on engineering, so it doesn’t matter what a ridership model says about that.

    This pretty much points to Altamont: “Statistical adjustments that were valid for intra-regional ridership models, but not for inter-regional ones, thereby exaggerating the importance of having frequent service”

    The outdated model put a penalty on split service much more than it should have.

    Robert Cruickshank Reply:

    Things are going well for this project – it’s running into opposition from people who don’t understand or don’t want HSR.

    If this project dies, it’s going to take 10-20 years to revive it. By which point it will be too late to save California from a severe economic crisis due to dependence on oil. People who think we have the luxury of waiting simply do not understand the realities and the context.

    I disagree with Spokker that the project isn’t going to happen – he tends to get very pessimistic when these kinds of criticisms are leveled at the HSR project. I also don’t agree that it would point to Altamont as the right alignment – the numbers will probably be about even, and remember that there are other factors that go into the choice of alignment. If ridership numbers are similar, then there’s no need to go through Altamont, which after all creates the same NIMBY problems we’re already experiencing.

    My guess is this leads to a new ridership study, which shows a bit higher ridership numbers for HSR, and we move on as before.

    Tony D. Reply:

    Things aren’t going well for those who DON’T WANT this project to happen, and that’s it. They nitpick bias, “favorable” reports to their worldviews then scream “see, I told you so!” as if HSR in California is doomed. Whether ridership will be 50, 40, or 30 million annually, HSR is going to happen; end of discussion!

    Bianca Reply:

    I also don’t agree that it would point to Altamont as the right alignment – the numbers will probably be about even, and remember that there are other factors that go into the choice of alignment.

    This cannot be emphasized enough. There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing alignments, and ridership is only one. Environmental impacts, feasibility of construction, and political interests are all important factors, and unless people can show that the difference is one of an order of magnitude or more, it’s not enough to justify re-opening the choice of alignment.

    Spokker Reply:

    “HSR is going to happen; end of discussion!”

    This is what makes you sound like a zealot.

    Eric M Reply:

    Aurther, I meant the institution smart guy!

    Peter Reply:

    Don’t worry about Arthur. He’s just mad that the Council drove a bypass through his house/that his home planet was destroyed by a Vogon Constructor Fleet.

    Arthur Dent Reply:

    Actually it’s the stairs, the light, the lock and the leopard that bother me most. Which explains my penchant for objective 3rd party reports.

    YesonHSR Reply:

    Its not going to end is going to be built and right by your condo..dont woorry

    Eric M Reply:

    And Berkeley is not about forward thining, it’s about thinking sideways!!

  5. tony d.
    Jul 1st, 2010 at 10:28

    It’s amazing that Morris will “hang on the nuts” of this Berkeley report because it somehow fits his world view, yet won’t comment on the CALPIRG report or other reports that support HSR.
    Look Morris, some wing-nut from the Cato Institute could come out tomorrow with a study claiming NO ONE will ride high-speed rail, but it’s going to be built (whether you like it or not). Save yourself from insanity my friend, and get on-board California’s future.

    Eric M Reply:

    He wont get on board beacuse all he cares about at his age is retirement. He can’t see past the end of his nose and really doesn’t care to, like a lot of people his age. Baby boomers have lost vision for the people of California, let alone this country and it is sickening!!

  6. YesonHSR
    Jul 1st, 2010 at 12:58

    This department at UC Berkley has been after HSR even before the Nov8th bond passage..that why Lowenthale wanted them to do the study….And the people doing this report should have this backgroud funding also reported in the media to show they just might have so bias!

  7. Eric M
    Jul 1st, 2010 at 13:11

    Harldy unbiased! Here is something from November of last year. Predetermined outcome?? I think so and Lowenthal knew it!!

  8. Tony D.
    Jul 1st, 2010 at 13:12

    I know you’ll have more on this Berkeley nonsense later Robert, but in laymans terms, what are we really talking about?: a 50 million passengers per year projection vs, say, a 40 million projection? Whoever’s “right” about the projected passengers per year, the difference between the forecasts are probably minuscule at best. Oh well, it’s going to be built anyway, regardless of what Morris or Elizabeth want.

  9. Spokker
    Jul 1st, 2010 at 14:15

    “”The consulting firm is very well-regarded; one of the statistical methods it used was thought to be accurate at the time,” said Madanat. “But based upon our review, we believe that a new model is necessary if policymakers want to accurately forecast high-speed rail demand in California.””

    So create a new model. The study found that the current model is unreliable, not that the train service won’t be profitable.

    Spokker Reply:

    Is it against the law to rely on an outdated, inaccurate ridership model?

    If not, the Berekely study simply provides ammo to those who wish to stop or delay the project. It may be used to put a repeal of 1A on the ballot, for example. It may be used to keep the Feds from sending California money or to keep private firms from investing in it. After all, with no funding in place, construction cannot start.

    A new study should be undertaken, keeping the recommendations of this report in mind. For example:

    -A sample of long-distance travelers that was not sufficiently representative (survey more people).

    -Statistical adjustments that were valid for intra-regional ridership models, but not for inter-regional ones, thereby exaggerating the importance of having frequent service (this probably has to do with the coefficients Elizabeth was talking about).

    -Restrictions that were based on professional judgment instead of on observed data (the model relied on too many assumptions. Gathering more data, which ties into the first recommendation would probably fix this as well).

    This is all my own speculation. I believe that projected ridership would fall, but perhaps not enough to make the service unprofitable. It would add delay, of course, but their construction timelines were pretty aggressive anyway.

  10. political_incorrectness
    Jul 1st, 2010 at 23:38

    Well I looked at the most recent ridership reports and compared it against the lowest traffic counts on I-5 and SR 99 within the Central Valley. I estimate the lowest ridership would be is 27.225 million which is right around the 2020 and 2021 estimates are. This is assuming that 20% of car trips are switched to HSR, 50% of air, and 75% of current train travel on the San Joaquin. I came up with the numbers from an article in the Annals of Regional Science which studied the effect of the Madrid-Seville HSR line. My only question with the current ridership is how do they expect it to go up from 19.3 million to 39.2 million in a matter of three years. I am confident it will get off the ground with the current ridership, but rapid expansion I question.

    It is fustrating to see the agency being shot at while nothing it final. They’ve just started drafts and a barrage of everyone is just attacking. There needs to be a demonstration to convince people that this is the future, and it needs to happen on a corridor capable of 125 mph and more. Would people go out into the Central Valley to see what HSR is about?

    Spokker Reply:

    Would ridership be generated from induced demand?

    political_incorrectness Reply:

    Yes about 10% of it would be induced demand was what I calculated.

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